Lent begins this year on Wednesday, February 14. That date will make it easy to remember the date of Ash Wednesday, but it’s going to be tough to celebrate Valentine’s Day with chocolate! To add to this, Easter Day is on April 1, April Fool’s Day, and the Day of Pentecost is on the May 24th Weekend. Although all of these dates correspond and thus make them easy to remember, there is always a tension between what happens in the church and the rest of the world.
Some of us might be thinking that this is a “both/and” situation where we can celebrate the church’s solemn feast days while observing secular occasions. This year, in particular, we might be challenged by the fact that Valentine’s Day falls on Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting and prayer. All that is reliably known of St. Valentine is that he was martyred and buried at a cemetery to the north of Rome on February 14. One of the more popular legends about Valentine, who was a priest, was that he defied the order of Emperor Claudius and secretly married couples so that the husbands wouldn't have to go to war. The legend claims that there were not many soldiers at the time and therefore this became a huge problem for the emperor, but love conquered all.
So how do we get from a man who was martyred in the third century to giving flowers, cards and chocolate. Chocolate, as you may know, has a reputation for its aphrodisiac powers, and therefore became a gift on the feast day of the saint whose legend had grown and was invariably connected with love. There is, although, little scientific evidence to support chocolate’s aphrodisiac powers. Having said this, we return to the question, how do we as Christians make the leap from the chocolate of Valentine’s Day to the ashes of Ash Wednesday? It’s a big one, but when the ashes are placed on our foreheads and we hear the words, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return” we can think that although, in the end, our earthly bodies return to the dust our heavenly bodies, “rest in peace and rise in glory” through Christ’s passion.
Valentine’s Day will be celebrated in our home (the day before), but I would also add that I hope you are able to come to our service on Ash Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. and celebrate the eternal hope we have in Christ.
Yours in Christ,
The Venerable Peter Scott +
Last Updated: Monday, February 05, 2018
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